Apple may be “past its prime,” said The Economist. After its latest quarterly earnings report showed profits flat at $13 billion, analysts vented their disappointment, and the stock price went into free fall. At one point, the tech giant’s market capitalization fell by some $57 billion, or “roughly the equivalent of the entire value of Ford.” The decline comes after “a drizzle of bad news,” including a bungled launch of Apple’s mapping app and rumors that the company is cutting back on its orders for components of the iPhone 5. And there was a telling marker: This week Apple, the world’s most valuable company since August 2011, passed that mantle back to ExxonMobil.
Don’t let Apple’s stock slump scare you, said Farhad Manjoo in Slate.com. This was, by any fair measure, “one of the most stunning quarterly earnings reports in corporate history.” iPhones and iPads are flying off the shelves, and in a year of tough competition from rivals like Samsung, the company still made “tons and tons of money by selling lots and lots of products at premium prices.” So why is it suffering a “shellacking” from Wall Street? Because analysts had unreasonably hoped for even more Mac and iPhone sales, and they worry that the company is “slowing down.” In fact, Apple’s declining growth is easy to explain: The company is simply confronting the law of large numbers. Apple’s gotten so big “that it’s impossible for it to mushroom the way it once did.” Still, behind this market reaction lurks a troubling fear. Some investors worry that the company lacks the “passion and innovation that made it so extraordinary for so long,” and now faces “some deeper void.”
That void, said Jesus Diaz in Gizmodo.com, is Steve Jobs’s vision. Apple’s staggering success was forged in markets the company itself invented: iTunes, the iPhone, and the iPad. By creating these new product categories, Jobs gave his company “a lead into something completely virgin.” That’s why Apple was able for so long to set record numbers and watch its valuation skyrocket. But now that those markets are saturated, Apple needs to set its sights on something new. “And that’s where Steve comes in. Or came.” It’s going to be hard for Apple to keep pace if it can’t continue to innovate aggressively and create new markets, yet that’s crucial for Apple’s success. If Tim Cook and his team can’t make such Jobs-like leaps, Apple may risk ending up like Sony: “a great company, with good products and good design, but just another company fighting to sell phones, tablets, and computers.”